Thank you Moonlightlover60 for the beautiful picture! Your talented offerings really brighten the story.
harder Ben searched for a clue as to what happen to Michael R. St.
John, alias Mick St. John the fewer leads he got. He’d searched the
genealogy web sites, name traces, all the government sites, nothing
showed that he existed after 1952 when it appeared that he and his wife
were killed. Except that he apparently had a grandson who was the
mirror image of him. However, there were no birth records for Mick’s
People didn’t just magically appear. In desperation he
might consider asking Mick, but then that opened up a whole new can of
worms – one that might be best left unsaid. According to his private
investigations application, he was born November 15, 1977, which made
him 31. How could Ben have found an apartment lease under his name
going back to 1986? THAT had to be his father, who was named Michael
St. John as well. But again another dead end because there was not a
single other piece of information about him.
Ben thought he’d
struck gold with Coraline DuVall, except that in the end that one
fizzled out as well. She apparently owned a house in the Hollywood
hills in the early 1950’s. The owner ship transferred to a Cynthia
Xavier Davis sometime after Coraline’s presumed death in 1954. Davis
was apparently a relative of some kind. The house was sold to Morgan
Vincent in early 2006; Morgan Vincent remained the current owner, except
that he couldn’t find her.
She had worked at Buzzwire as a
photographer while Beth was there and then had some sort of accident
that nearly killed her. She left the hospital without her doctor’s
knowledge and no one had seen her since. Calls to her family in Chicago
hadn’t provided any further information because she hadn’t been in
contact with them since 2005. They had presumed her dead.
central character in this seemed to be Beth, and while he had her number
he couldn’t really call and start asking questions without alerting
Mick. Maybe Mick would be happy to provide answers, who knew? He might
be able to explain it all and then the mystery would be solved. But
Ben wasn’t ready for that yet; he still had a few other leads to try
first. He was going to take a look at the crime scene evidence from the
hotel where Mick and Coraline were killed, supposedly.
he now believed that they weren’t killed. They went into hiding, he’d
bet his next paycheck on it. Which lead to the big question: why?
drove up into the Hollywood hills to Josef’s humble home. What a laugh
she thought, calling it that. It was brightly lit tonight in
preparation for the party but as yet there wasn’t a crush of
party-goers. She handed her keys to a valet and walked up the winding
flagstone path that was lit with luminaries. The door was promptly
answered by Franklin who regarded her with a slight smile and bow.
evening Ms. Parker. How lovely you look tonight,” he stated quietly.
He might be 300 years old but he still knew a pretty lass when he saw
one. The question was, did his employer?
“Thank you Franklin.
My, the house looks bright and festive,” she said, referring to the
decorations gracing the ballroom, which could be seen through the large
double doors to the left. The foyer was magnificent as usual, it’s
marble floors and stairs shining with a gleaming glow.
“Well, we could have nothing less now could we?” he asked, his eyes sparking brightly in the well-lit room.
entered the foyer, closely followed by a very attractive man and headed
straight for Lani. “Lani, your gown is exquisite, and so are you by
“Well, I was instructed to have a ‘fabulous’ gown. I’m
glad to know it meets your expectations. Who is your friend?” she
inquired, staring at Tango.
“Ah yes, excuse my manners. Lani Parker, may I introduce Tango Smythe, a friend of mine for many years.”
in centuries Josef?” she said with a dimpled smile. She held out her
hand to Tango and greeted him, surprised to hear his British accent.
bowed low over her hand, kissing it delicately. “Might I add that
Josef is correct, you look positively stunning my dear. It is with
great pleasure that I make your acquaintance. And yes, centuries.”
my, Lani thought. Wickedly handsome and charming to boot. And the
accent, oh, she loved the accent! “Um, well, you seem to have
survived it. I’m sure you both are devils and have had some interesting
escapades. Care to share?” she teased.
“Oh, indeed we have.
Might I lead you into the ballroom where we can chose a drink and chat?
I’ve many stories I could relate; surprisingly Josef doesn’t always
come off well in them, but he is a charming rascal, isn’t he?” He cast a
wicked look over his shoulder as Josef watched open-mouthed as he led
Lani into the ballroom.
Josef watched them walk away, Lani’s hand
resting on Tango’s arm. What the hell just happened? She hated
vampires and yet that British bastard had just walked off with her,
twittering like an adolescent girl. He wasn’t going to let this happen,
hell no. He followed them, listening to the chat as Tango told her
about a time when the two of them were briefly thrown into a jail in
Siam. She was listening raptly as they ordered drinks; white wine for
her and tequila for him.
“So you see, we had to bust out of
there quickly, Josef can’t go without his beverages of choice for long,”
he told her. She was laughing merrily at the tale.
“And did you
tell her just how we ended in that jail Tango? Because you tried to
seduce the king’s daughter? Actually several of them if memory serves
Tango laughed out loud, a deep laugh that rumbled from
his admittedly handsome chest Lani thought. Oh, this one was a player
and she enjoyed chatting with him a good deal, especially because for
some reason it was bothering Josef.
“Yes, well, that might have been the reason,” he said with a wink for Lani. “Oh, it was an adventure though!”
they all realized that Heroku had joined them; he had been watching for
several minutes and it had been a very interesting few minutes for
sure. Heroku chuckled to himself, wanting to see where this went
because Josef was beside himself with jealousy, except that he didn’t
seem to understand it.
Yes, this would be a most interesting evening.
hour later Lani and Josef were still making the rounds, greeting guests
and smiling until Lani’s jaws ached. She didn’t know how Josef did it;
he showed no signs of fatigue and stress over it all, just welcomed and
smiled, making everyone feel welcome.
Logan and Audrey were
here, Logan looking as uncomfortable in his tux as he did at the wedding
and Audrey in a beautiful gown that was totally the wrong color for
her. Lani decided that a shopping trip needed to be planned, some girl
time. Dorothy and Clark were there too, Clark wearing his tux with ease
and Dorothy looking fabulous in a gown that made her look young and
vibrant – and very pregnant.
Cami was there with Carl and he
managed to look completely relaxed. Their second date had gone very
well and she felt comfortable enough to ask him to attend with her.
Lani smiled each time they danced by her line of vision; they both
looked so happy. The small band had played steadily, soft music for
slow dancing or easy conversation. All in all it was quite pleasant,
until Josef heard Lani’s sharp intake of breath and felt her stiffen at
Marcus and Helen Parker stepped in front of them and
Josef heard Lani’s heart beat rapidly for a moment. Marcus offered his
hand to Josef, who shook it amicably even while he wondered what Lani’s
reaction was about.
“Lanelle,” Helen said, air kissing both cheeks. “What on earth are you doing here?”
“Mom, I work for Sesumi.”
“Really? I had no idea,” Helen said, looking around the room for acquaintances.
“Yes Mom. Remember I was in Tokyo for 4 years?”
not really. I can’t keep track of your life for heaven’s sake. Must
move on dear!” and like that her parents walked past them.
and Clark had witnessed the whole conversation and Dorothy saw Lani’s
face go from pale white to flaming red. “Clark,” she said, knowing that
Lani was livid from the conversation.
“Give her a few minutes
Dorothy, you know that’s best where Lani is concerned.” She nodded and
then watched as Lani moved swiftly across the room, heading for the door
that led out to the terrace.
Josef stood dumbfounded by that
exchange. Her father didn’t acknowledge her at all and her mother
didn’t seem to have a clue as to where her daughter worked. He watched
as Lani all but ran across the floor and started to follow her but was
stopped by a hand on his arm.
“Josef, give her a few minutes,” Dorothy said.
“No, she’s upset. I need to make sure she’s alright. What the hell is up with those parents of hers anyway?”
and Clark both just shook their heads; it had always been the same for
Lani. “Just trust me Josef, let her cool down before you try and talk
“I can’t. She’s here at my request and I’m responsible.
Excuse me, please?” he said, already moving towards the door,
following the scent of Lani’s pain and hurt.
“Clark, this isn’t going to be good,” Dorothy said sadly.
nodded in acknowledgment. Across the room both Tango and Heroku had
seen all that happened. They didn’t know what the right thing to do was
but it was out of their hands. Lani and Josef cared for one another a
great deal – they had to find their own path.
Lani’s scent to the back of the gardens, near a gazebo. She climbed the
steps and sat down, crossing her legs. He watched quietly for a moment
as she kicked the crossed leg, a nervous habit of old. As he got
closer he scented tears and they tore his heart out. He didn’t
understand what had happened, but he felt responsible.
“Lani? I’m so sorry.”
fixed him with angry eyes that flashed brilliantly due to the tears
that clouded them. “Get out of here Josef – leave me alone!”
“I can’t do that; I’m concerned about you. Please, tell me what is wrong?”
ME ALONE!” she yelled and he was sure that they could hear her inside.
She stood up and walked down the steps, getting ready to move to a
different part of the gardens.
Josef reached out to stop her and
she shoved his hand off of her arm. For a moment she looked at him so
intensely it almost hurt. “Why Josef? Just tell me why you didn’t tell
me that you had invited them?”
“I didn’t think about it. I mean,
they’re your parents and it never occurred to me that there would be a
problem…” he said, trailing off as he saw more tears well up in her huge
“You should have.” She took a step back and again as she moved around him he put out a hand to stop her.
talk to me…” he said. His only response was a sharp, stinging slap
across the face. He pulled his hand back and watched as she disappeared
through the garden. He didn’t understand what happened, but he
intended to find out.
Lani ran to the valet and requested her car. She wouldn’t stay here another moment, she couldn’t stay here another moment. She couldn’t breathe here, not with those two so close. How on earth could they be her parents?
she got her car she put the top down and started the trip down the
hillside. It was a new moon tonight so the only light came from the
street lamps along the way. The road was twisty and required care to
traverse it safely. Each turn brought a bit of relief from the rage she
felt, from the pain and hurt of the past. As she made one of the last
turns before she drove out of the hills a small animal appeared on the
side of the road. Lani slowed down drastically, just before it tried to
run in front of her.
“Damn it,” she muttered, bringing the
Maserati to a stop in a drive way and hoping that she hadn’t hit it. As
she opened the door a floppy-haired brown dog whimpered and raised a
paw up as if to say ‘help me’. Lani rushed to the animal and scooped it
up, trying to check and see if it were hurt.
heard someone calling the dog and walked towards the voice. An older
woman walked slowly down the drive calling the dog’s name. He started
whimpering when he saw the woman and jumped out of Lani’s arms, racing
to the woman who scooped up the fluffy mop top dog and told him ‘bad
“I hope he didn’t scare you too much. This one is an
escape artist; I just can’t figure out how he does it.” She looked over
at the tightly spaced, 4 foot tall white picket fence with a scowl.
“See, when he gets caught he whimpers and cries, trying to get some
sympathy; but I know exactly what you’re up to bad dog!”
smiled as the cute dog tilted his head and again raised his paw. She
reached out and scratched his head and said, “Uh uh, I got your number
“I’m so sorry he scared you my dear. Won’t you come in
for a cup of tea? Unless you are on your way to a party,” she said
eyeing Lani’s attire.
“No, I was just leaving one. I’d love a
cup of tea actually,” she told the woman. She glanced at the mail box
which had the name ‘Carter’ on it and followed the woman into the large,
sprawling bungalow. It sat back about 50 feet from the road and was
surrounded by towering trees; it looked idyllic, like something from a
old fashioned painting. She should probably go home but somehow the
thought of a pleasant cup of tea with this woman who didn’t know her
sounded like the best thing in the world. Since she didn’t know her she
wouldn’t judge her or criticize her. Relax, that’s what I need to do.
the house Lani looked around her, there were old family pictures on the
far wall and a beautiful painting about the mantle of a wooded grove
with purple flowers everywhere. “Come on into the kitchen honey and
we’ll get that tea.”
In the kitchen the woman indicated the old
fashioned table with vinyl covered chairs. The table top was white,
faded to off white after undoubtedly many years of use and the faux
marble looking vinyl on the chairs was lilac colored. In fact, the
whole room was done in lilac and white including the dishes she noticed
as the woman pulled down delicate bone china that was white with purple
colored flowers on it. Even her cotton house dress was covered in
“So Mrs. Carter,” she said, using the name on the mail box, “I take it you like purple?”
Carter chuckled and said, “Yes, I do. The china started it all off, it
was my mothers. I coveted that china even as a little girl. A sin, I
know, but just the same I loved it.” The tea kettle began shrieking and
she walked to it and removed it from the burner and poured the water
into the teapot where she had already put the tea bags.
carried the tea pot to the table and then went back to a cabinet and
opened a cookie jar and removed a few cookies to a plate which she added
to the array on the table before sitting down. She was quite spry Lani
thought as she watched her move around.
“So honey, a man has got you twizzled. What happened?”
“Twizzled?” Lani laughed. “I don’t believe I’ve ever heard that term.”
and between, out of sorts. I saw that word on one of them day time
talk shows!” she said proudly. “So tell me about him.”
it’s not that, or not like you think. I co-hosted a party with him and
he didn’t, well, I didn’t know who was coming and was surprised, that’s
“His wife maybe?”
“Oh heavens NO. But it wouldn’t matter if he was married because we’re not romantically involved.”
hm.” Mrs. Carter took a sip of her tea and offered Lani a cookie.
“Try one of these honey. They are lemon crackle cookies and they go
just fine with this tea.”
Lani bit into a cookie and immediately a
smile spread across her face. Very lemony and light, it was wonderful.
“No, really, he’s a man that my company is doing some work for. The
party was a celebration of a new program that we’re setting up for him.”
“Who did he invite that got your goat?”
smiled inwardly at that term; you didn’t hear that too often nowadays.
“He invited my parents, who are wasteful socialites. I guess it’s fair
to say that we don’t get along.”
“You don’t get along with your parents? I can’t imagine that honey.”
youth was hard – on them I mean. Raising a child takes time and care,
neither of which they had much of. Tonight my mother said she didn’t
know that I had been working at this past job for almost 5 years. She
said, she couldn’t keep track of me. I’m an only child by the way so
it’s not like she had a whole bunch of us.”
The old woman studied
her young guest with interest. She was beautiful and poised and had
impeccable manners and was clearly unhappy. She could understand why
she was upset with her parents – what kind of people were they anyway to
neglect their daughter like that. But, it still had something to do
with a man, that much she was sure about.
They talked of
inconsequential things for another half hour. She learned the little
dogs name was Noodle because his mama was a poodle and the dad a
neighborhood mutt. He lay in the kitchen by the back door watching them
carefully and Mrs. Carter joked that he was hoping for a bite of
cookie. “Yes, he’s a totally bad boy sometimes,” she laughed, at the
same time breaking a cookie in two and sharing half with him.
she left, Lani felt so much better. She hugged the old woman and took
note of the house number, 19404 and decided to send her a big bouquet of
Purple one’s of course.
To be continued…